Tips on how to get a kid 'hooked' on fishing
Last week I mentioned my concern about the declining number of young people getting involved in fishing. I wanted to follow up with some ideas about keeping young people involved in the life-long sport. I would love to see more kids introduced to fishing, but for those that do get introduced, here are some considerations that may help keep them involved or help get them "hooked" on fishing. These may help create life-long fishing partners for you.
Make sure that the kids get to use quality equipment. Nothing can turn a person off like using bad equipment that doesn't work. It makes an otherwise enjoyable experience frustrating.
Be aware of the conditions and make sure kids have the proper gear like warm clothes, rain gear, proper fitting hats, sunscreen, gloves, proper footwear, whatever might be needed given the conditions, you get the idea.
Chase after whatever is biting. Kids don't care if it sunfish, crappies, bass, northern pike, or bullhead. If it bites and fights, it's fun. Everyone loves to watch bobbers go down. Most of us that grew up fishing remember some of those first bobber bite experiences and still enjoy that style of fishing.
Kids can pick up on jig fishing very easy and that is a good way to introduce them to catching bigger fish like bass, northern, and walleye. Starting out with jigs and learning how to cast jigs can lead to learning how to cast spinners and crank baits. This can open their fishing up to a new world of experiences and give them skills that will help them chase fish on their own from docks, shorelines, and public fishing docks.
Try and be aware of the time on the water and the child's patience and response to your outing. If they get uncomfortable, cold, to hot, or bored, it is OK to call it a day even if you want to keep going. It's OK for the kids to take a break and play in the live well, watch the loons, take a nap, or take a food break (always bring food, juice, water, pop, etc. along!)
It's important it is about their enjoyment and experience. If it works to take them when they ask, do it, or make plans together when you can, and make sure you follow through. Nobody is perfect in the boat and you will have your frustrations untangling lines, removing hooks from clothing, spinning the seats, etc, etc, etc. but be aware of your frustration, try to make teachable moments, apologize when necessary as you want the kids to remember the fishing trip as an enjoyable, relaxing and fun time.
We want fishing to be a positive memory of time shared that will get passed along from generation to generation. I look forward to time in the boat I get to share with my sons and eventually getting my grand kids out fishing (when I have grand kids).
(Laabs runs Brad Laabs Guide Service in Detroit Lakes.)